Many Christians on mainstream and social media are speaking out against Islam being taught or even allowed in public schools. Many of those same Christians also insist on the Ten Commandments, prayer, the Bible, or all three being brought back into the public schools. One cannot refuse to allow one faith in public schools while inviting in another.
Possible but Flawed Arguments for Teaching Islam in Public Schools
False Dichotomy One: Islam Culture vs. Islam Faith
I haven’t heard it stated, but based on history, I’m confident that some have (or will) say that the inclusion of Islam in public schools is about the culture rather than the faith. The schools are not endorsing or preaching the religion of Islam, they are merely outlining the culture of Islam. This is a false dichotomy meant to serve as a rhetorical and legal loophole.
First, there is no such thing as an ‘Islamic culture’ distinct from the religious teachings. Thus, in order to teach the culture one must necessarily teach the faith.
Second, which ‘Islamic culture’ is being taught? American Islam? Iranian? Shiite? Sunni? What about the radical culture adopted by ISIS, Hezbollah, and Hamas? Then there’s the Nation of Islam. Which ‘culture’ is being taught?
So, don’t fall for any ‘culture’ versus ‘religion’ argument. But that’s not the only argument some might use (or might be using).
False Dichotomy Two: Education and Inform vs. Preach and Endorse
I’m sure some have or will argue that they are merely attempting to educate students regarding Islam. The proposed goal is to inform students about Islam so that they don’t fall for a misconception about that faith. In no way are the teachers endorsing or preaching Islam. While this motive seems honorable, there are problems with it.
First, courts have ruled that public schools cannot inform or educate students about Christian religious beliefs because that would require teaching Christianity, which is seen as promoting a faith. The same goes for Islam. If educating about Christianity is a form of religious endorsement, then educating about Islam is also a form of religious endorsement.
Second, one must ask of which beliefs should students be made aware? Should they be made aware of the beliefs of Sunni, Shiite, or Nation of Islam beliefs? Each has different interpretations of various passages on the Koran. In response, some would say that they should be made aware of the basic core teachings. However, this leads to the third problem with the educate versus preach argument.
Third, one cannot educate about Islam only without directly or indirectly showing religious favoritism. To be fair, if schools allow or invite Islamic teachings to be brought in for the purpose of educating students, then they should also allow or invite the teachings of Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Wicca, Satanism, Atheism, and other legally recognized religious belief systems.
Fourth, the premise behind educating students is to counteract misunderstandings created by Islamic extremists. However, many in the media continue to create a false—and even demeaning—caricature of Christianity based on the most extreme elements. Are those same individuals wanting to counter the misconceptions created by Islamic extremism also willing to educate about Christianity to counter Christian extremism?
To put it simply, the concept of ‘educate’ versus ‘advocate’ is a false dichotomy. One cannot inform about one religion, exclude others, and not be taking sides.
Despite these two false arguments and the issues they raise, Christians can embrace Islam in public schools.
Three Reasons why Christians can Embrace Islam in Public Schools
Before outlining the reasons, let me state that to embrace Islam in public schools is not to embrace Islam. Just like a Christian can support a Hindu’s right to publically practice and express his faith without endorsing that faith, one can embrace Islam in the public schools without embracing the Islamic faith.
That said, there are three reasons why Christians can embrace Islam in public schools.
- If Islam is allowed, then so is Christianity. What applies to one faith applies to other faiths. If public schools are allowed to inform about Islam, they are allowed to inform about Christianity. If they are required to educate about Islam, they are required to educate about Christianity. However, the reverse applies as well: if one is forbidden, then so is the other.
- It can open doors to evangelistic opportunities. Discussing religious beliefs in school might make students more open to the idea of God. It could lead to questions about the nature and origin of truth. Thus, it could lead to tremendous opportunities to engage in evangelism and apologetics, if Christians are willing to step up to the challenge.
- It can lead to greater religious tolerance. When done without bias toward or against any particular faith, educating students about religion can lead to greater tolerance of various faiths rather than seeing religion as the enemy of society.
Christians should not fear Islam in public schools; they should embrace it. Furthermore, Christians should demand the same treatment be given to all faiths in public school that is given to Islam.